Kenosha, Wisconsin District Attorney Michael Gravely announced late this afternoon that police involved in the August shooting of Jacob Blake will not be charged.
In the incident, which led to days of riots, police were responding to a domestic violence call and confronted Jacob Blake, a black man who ignored police warnings and instructions. As police tried to get him to stop so they could talk to him, Blake refused and continued to walk to his car. Blake opened the car door where a knife was visible and within reach (which Blake later confirmed was true). The officer shot Blake seven times in the back, leaving him paralyzed below the waist.
In a statement, the District Attorney said that the officer “felt he was about to be stabbed” and if the case were brought to court, they could not prove that the officer did not act in self-defense.
As with much of life, several people involved did things to make the situation worse. For his part, Blake not only had a record of domestic abuse even before that particular call, but Blake ignored police orders to stop so they could talk to him. He not only refused police instruction, but walked to where he had a weapon within reach. Not smart. When police tell you to do something, do it. Things tend to work out better in the long run.
Having said that, the officer shot Blake in the back and shot him seven times. Blake had a knife in the car, but if the officer was not within reach he was safe, at least momentarily. And he shot Blake seven times, in the back. Why seven times? If Blake had reached for the knife and if he subsequently began to turn on the officer, certainly the officer should use any force necessary to defend himself. But Blake hadn’t yet grabbed the knife or turned, and even if shooting was justified was it justified to shot seven times? In the back. At point blank range? The officer’s reaction seems extreme to most any objective observer. More so when you watch the video and visualize how things transpired.
Blake’s actions certainly caused concerns from police, but were the actions reasonable? I don’t think we can say that. And, at least, they were a use of excessive force and the involved officer should be facing those changes. Unfortunately, during a time when sensibilities over this issue are high, here is an example where it seems police are not being held accountable for excessive overreaction. Because of the responsibility they have to protect us, and because they have to make split second decisions in matters of life and death, Thinking Man has no problem in giving police the benefit of the doubt when there is one. However, with that ‘benefit of the doubt’ and the extra responsibility, they also must be held to a standard that includes sure and clear accountability. This decision did not do that. As a result, we will see continued tensions (to use a word that is probably too mild, and so risks being too flippant about a serious issue)